Aucklander selected to represent New Zealand in Mandarin speaking competition
An Auckland student who won a national Chinese Mandarin speech competition credits his success to compulsory language classes.
St Peter's College student Jamie Laing took part in New Zealand's national Mandarin speaking competition in Wellington earlier this month and, after taking out the competition, has been invited to compete in China in October.
The year 11 student gave a five-minute speech in Mandarin on the famous Terracotta Army, followed by a performance of the Chinese Ancient art of shuttlecock kicking.
Only students who are born outside of China, and for whom Mandarin is not their first language, can take part in the competition.
Laing said his win was a testament to the strong Mandarin focus at St Peter's College - where more than half of students study Mandarin.
St Peter's College was the first Auckland secondary school to make Mandarin compulsory for years seven and eight.
"St Peter's really values Mandarin as the language of the future - I think this is important considering China is already New Zealand's largest trading partner," Laing said.
Associate headmaster Stephen Dooley said parents were "extremely supportive" of the policy.
The school was also the first in Auckland to have a Mandarin language classroom funded by the Chinese Government agency "The Confucius Institute".
Confucius classrooms receive funding, student scholarships, books and teaching materials directly from the Office of Chinese Language Council International in China.
Confucius classrooms also have "brother" relationships schools in China - with annual student exchanges and camps.
St Peter's College Mandarin teacher Bingmei Zhang said understanding Mandarin would help New Zealander's understand their new neighbours.
"With the arrival of more Chinese immigrants and international students, more parents and students in New Zealand think Chinese is important to learn so we can bridge the cultural and linguistic gap."
An Asia New Zealand Foundation survey, released in March, found eight out of 10 people thought New Zealand students should learn a language other than English, and more than half of those chose Chinese ahead of te reo Maori.
Director of the Confucius Institute in Auckland, Nora Yao, said there couldn't be a more important subject for New Zealand students to be learning.
"Making Mandarin a compulsory subject in schools will spur New Zealand's economic growth, and will open up opportunities for the younger generation in tomorrow's world."